Cathy Edwards, entrepreneur and co-founder of Heart Linked Community Service Cooperative

Cathy Edwards is a business consultant, serial entrepreneur, and community builder from Saskatchewan. Her professional career is as broad as it is deep, and we love having her join us on a project.

Originally achieving an accounting degree, Edwards later earned a law degree and eventually moved on to real estate development. From there, she has played a role in a variety of startups and ventures, even co-founding a non-profit cooperative that offers youth retreats for young girls.

“I think all of those things mesh together really well in the sense that I’ve got a really strong professional foundation and have been able to use that to apply to startups and figure out what is the right recipe for success, both in my personal endeavours and with the groups that I consult with,” Edwards said.

The recipe for success for startup cooperatives can be tricky because often co-op founders come with a diverse skill set, and not always the business or financial acumen that lends itself well to starting a new venture. The business planning process helps blend these ingredients into a digestible and executable vision of the future. Apply for a business plan today.

What makes working with cooperative startups different

“When you’re working with a group that’s establishing a startup cooperative, I find it really can often be an eclectic mix of skill sets, but they may not have business savvy or the financial acumen to figure out how to execute,” Edwards said.

Figuring out how to execute is part of her business planning process, and often it can lead to unexpected places, she says.

Planning for Change

“You may have the overarching goal that you’re trying to achieve,” Edwards said. “But the steps that we outline in a business plan may look very, very different from what [the steering committee] had conceived as the path to get to their goal.”

And that’s a good thing. All projects have unexpected twists and turns, and not all of them will be anticipated ahead of time. The important part is to get started and try.

The Reluctant Leader

It’s not often that people wake up wanting to be co-op entrepreneurs. Circumstances generally flush them out and, in a way, compel people to take on leadership roles and start new initiatives. We call these the “reluctant leaders.” Edwards seems to agree.

The reluctant leaders who start cooperatives often come together because they must, not necessarily because they desire to lead a project.
Edwards says “you have to take a leap of faith to start something new.”

The Certainty of Uncertainty

One of the certainties of life, and certainly of starting a cooperative, is that you’re going to fail or make mistakes at some point along the way. What Edwards suggests is not beating yourself up too much about it.

“You have to have a sort of a thick skin because not everything I’ve done has been successful or turned out the way that I had intended,” Edwards said. “So, it’s about how quickly you dust yourself up and [how] often [you] get back up.”

How to Eat an Elephant

Besides being prepared to dust yourself off a few times, she says to come prepared to take small steps to get to your goal rather than trying to tackle the whole thing at once.

“The advice I always give to a new startup when we get started is we’re going to figure out how to eat the elephant and that is one bite at a time,” she said.

The Modern-Day Explorer

Edwards says she is inspired by entrepreneurs and compares them to modern-day explorers.

“I find there’s a real similarity between the type of people who can go after a startup -they’re kind of fearless,” Edwards said. “I look at them as the modern-day explorers, and I find that really thrilling and I’m always inspired by people who want to create something new.”

Are you ready to become a modern-day explorer? Request support today.

“Heather and the team at Co-operatives First are top-notch. Not only their knowledge but their understanding of the project. They have truly helped us along every step of the way. Their timely response and knowledge of the steps are extraordinary. They are forthcoming with information. This is one of the most knowledgeable and friendliest teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Weyburn Theatre

“Co-operatives First made the process of establishing our Artisan Co-operative a very clear and easy process. The expanse of available tools and resources provided by Co-operatives First answers many questions and lightens the workload. Greatly appreciate having the connections made with Trista and Kyle, they keep the co-operative moving forward.”

Nehiyawaskiy Indigenous Peoples Art Co-op

“Our experience working with the Co-operatives First team was absolutely fabulous. The staff was accommodating, knowledgeable and patient. It was truly a breath of fresh air to have such a wealth of skill and resources available to a non-profit. They were invaluable to our successful launch!”

Heart Linked Community Services Cooperative

“Working with Co-operatives First was fantastic! We are still new to the cooperative world, and we relied heavily on their advice and expertise when drafting our rules/bylaws, and our memorandum of association. The team has experience with many different cooperative models, so they provided advice on what has and hasn’t worked for other cooperatives. We wouldn’t have been able to incorporate without their help!”

Ananda Cooperative

“We have had a very positive experience with everyone at Co-operatives First. They have helped us in multiple ways. Right from the first step in knowing how to incorporate, how to set our business and offering ideas for us to help steer us in the right direction plus allowing us to really make our own decisions. If our decisions go off track, they have gently guided us back to where we needed to be. The Co-operatives first guys are always eager to answer questions, and give ideas to us that got us off the ground.”

South East Butcher Block